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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is real soap made?
    Soap is made through the process of saponification, in which oils are converted into salts of fatty acids, using an alkali. That might sound complicated, but it's essentially just oils, lye (sodium hydroxide) and water! For example, olive oil becomes sodium olivate, and coconut oil becomes sodium cocoate. At Cult of Cuda we use the cold process to make our cleansing bars. The first recorded recipe for soap is from ancient Babylon in 2200 BCE written on a clay tablet. It used cassia oil - a close relative of cinnamon, with a strong and spicy aroma.
  • Is handmade soap better?
    Commercial soaps often use unsustainable palm oil, sulphates, hardening agents, foam boosters and preservatives. Most commercial liquid soaps, and even some bar soaps, are not actually soap at all - they use synthetic detergents like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS). We think real soap is way better! Our handmade soap at Cult of Cuda doesn't use any of the above. We make our cleansing bars using using saponified vegetable oils and limit our additives to skin-safe clays, pigments and scents, so they're exciting for you to use but are also as sustainable as possible. We find sulphates like SLS too drying on the skin, and there is some evidense to prove this, due to its checmical properties. Our soap also contains all its natural glycerin, a by-product of the saponification process, which acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin. Gylcerin is so valuable that it is often extracted from commercially made soap and sold separately.
  • Is there sodium hydroxide in your soap?
    Yes and no. Lye (sodium hydroxide) is an essential ingredient of real soap, but by the end of the process none of it is left in the final product. For example olive oil and sodium hydroxide react to become sodium olivate and glycerin. Originally lye was made by boiling the ashes of a hardwood fire and using the resultant alkali liquid. Romans are said to have stumbled across this when volcanic ash, rainwater, and fat from animal sacrifices mixed together, transforming it into a cleansing solution. Nowadays, it's manufactured using electrolysis.
  • Is handmade soap safe to use?
    Definitely! Here at Cult of Cuda we take safety very seriously, from the ingredients used, to the manufacturing process, and the final product. Soap-making falls under the UK's strict cosmetic regulations, requiring each of our products to under go a comprehensive safety assessment by an experienced cosmetic chemist, and we keep detailed records of every product we make. If you ever want to know more about your purchase, please contact us with the batch number, which can be found on the packaging.
  • How long does a bar last?
    It of course depends on how often it is used, but on average, one of our cleansing bars will last you a month for showering, but a lot longer for hand and face washing. You can make it last longer by keeping it dry between use and avoiding letting it sit in water. Bar soap doesn't need preservatives, so you can keep stored until at least the best before date on the packaging, but likely much longer! To prolong the life, colour and scent of your Cult of Cuda cleansing bars, we recommend you keep them in a cool, dark and dry place before beginning use.
  • How do I look after handmade soap?
    The handmade cleansing bars at Cult of Cuda are real soap with loads of skin benefits, but this does mean they need some special love and care. Commercial brands use hardening agents and sulphates that keep their 'soap' hard. Because we don't add these, our bars need to be kept dry between uses. With all handmade soap, they will slowly begin to dissolve if sat in a puddle of water, so please use a well draining soap dish.
  • Do your cleansing bars dry out skin?
    No, all of our cleansing bars are made using a method called superfatting, which means there are always free-floating excess oils in each bar to help moisturise your skin. Our bars also retain their naturally occuring glycerin, which is a humectant. Also, because we don't add sulphates and foaming agents, they're a lot more gentle. One end of the soap molecule loves water (hydrophilic), the other end hates it (hydrophobic), which makes it a perfect mediator between oil and water. The soap molecules bind the dirt and grease and allow them to be washed away by the water.
  • What parts of the body are the cleansing bars for?
    All of our cleansing bar recipes are designed to be gentle on both face and body. We don't recommend using soap on hair, as minerals in hard water can bind with soap molecules and leave hair feeling waxy. The Cotswolds, along with most of England have medium to very hard water.
  • Do your products contain sulphates?
    Most mass-produced commercial liquid soaps and some bar soaps use sulphates. We don't, and here's why. Sulphates (look out for sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate/sulfate on labels) are synthetic detergents, originally developed for doing laundry. Whilst deemed safe to use under UK and EU cosmetics regulations, we find they can be irritating or cause skin dryness to some people, plus SLS is commonly derived from unsustainable palm oil. They're also a cheap way to make a product foam. Whilst these ingredients aren't banned in the UK, and are considered skin safe, why use them when real soap does the trick?
  • Is palm oil bad?
    The shift to palm oil has been a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species, and taking away land of indigenous people. Whilst some of it is grown sustainably, most of it unfortunately isn't, and is still causing huge problems. The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) has developed a set of environmental and social requirements that must be followed in order to sell CSPO (Certified Sustainable Palm Oil). However, some have criticised them for having been slow to enforce the ban on deforestation, and failing to effectively monitor continued rule-breaking. For this reason, we avoid all unsustainable palm oil, and all of our cleansing bars are made with a base of olive and coconut oils. However, for some products where there is no alternative, such as Stearic Acid which is derived from Palm Oil, we will only ever use Certified Sustainable.
  • Are fragrance oils bad?
    No, fragrance oils a safe alternative, used extensively throughout the cosmetics industry. Actually, most perfumes you can buy on the high street use 100% synthetic fragrances. Fragrance oils can be composed of extracts from natural essential oils, or synthetic aroma compounds, or both. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation online about fragrance oils, but they have safe usage limits just like all of their essential oil counterparts. UK cosmetic regulation requires the presence of any of 26 substances recognised as allergenic to be indicated on the ingredients list. They also determine maximum safe usage limits for all ingredients, which were inherited from the EU, and are some of the strictest in the world.
  • Do you test on animals?
    Absolutely not - we never have, and never will. So why don't we state this on our packaging? Animal testing is now thankfully banned in the UK and EU, so making this claim is deemed in breach of cosmetics law, because all cosmetics sold in Europe can say the same thing. Although many companies continue to make these claims. There are various independent accreditations you can apply for, allowing you to legally use a 'cruelty free' logo on product packaging, but for a small business these are costly, and often confuse consumers as to what is already illegal in the UK.
  • Why don't you use mica?
    Mica is a shimmery mined mineral used extensively across the cosmetic industry (often labelled as CI 77019). Nearly all cosmetic products with a glittery sparkle or lustre will use mica. Whilst mica itself is completely safe, there are many problems with the mining process, which include the exploitation of child labour, unsafe working conditions, and unfair trade. Despite international efforts to stop this, it's still difficult to guarantee the source is ethical. For this reason, we refuse to use naturally occuring mica, and instead only use synthetic mica, also known as fluorphlogopite.
  • I have an allergy
    It's important to take allergies seriously therefore you should patch test all cosmetic products before using them. Our ingredient lists show everything that goes into our products, including any of 26 substances recognised by UK cosmetic regulations as potentially allergenic, but if you've got any questions don't hesitate to contact us! Firstly, it's important to know what you are allergic to. Although widely claimed, people are rarely allergic to all soap, all essential oils, or all fragrance oils. Soap is the broad name for many chemical compounds, including Sodium Olivate (derived from olive oil), and Sodium Cocoate (derivated from coconut oil). Each essential oil and fragrance oil also is completely unique. Every individual also has their own tolerance threshold, so the quantity of the allergen is also important.
  • What is each bar good for?
    We often get asked which of our products are best for a particular ailment. All our cleansing bars are real soap with their natural glycerin and superfatted, meaning they are all gentle for face and body. Our shampoo bars have also been formulated with surfactants derived from coconut oil, along with hydrolyzed wheat protein and pro-vitamin B5. Product claims are controlled by the UK's cosmetic regulations, which means we can't state something without strong evidence. Whilst there are plenty of studies showing the benefits of certain essential oils in isolation, we don't believe this is substantial enough to make sweeping statements about the individual properties of each products. We add clays, powders, scents and colours to make our products exfoliating, change the texture, evoke memories, and be more enjoyable!
  • What's the problem with 'free from' claims?
    In Europe, cosmetic claims are regulated using 6 criteria: legal compliance, truthfulness, evidential support, honesty, fairness, informed decision-making. It means that ‘free from’ claims shouldn't be allowed when they imply a denigrating message, especially when based on a presumed negative perception. This is not legally binding, and has not been adopted by the UK, but we think they're pretty good standards to adhere to! For example, on parabens; Cancer Research UK, the NHS and the American Cancer Society all state that there is no link between parabens and the claimed concerns. Despite this, countless companies claim to be 'free from parabens', which is denigrating the entire group of parabens. Similar claims are made with soap, advertised as 'preservative free', however soap does not need preservatives, and even if it did, preservatives are considered safe by the UK cosmetic regulations.

Do you have more questions about our handmade soap?

Feel free to get in touch.

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